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The implications of Google SideWiki

Screenshot Google recently announced the launched a new product called SideWiki, which is pretty much what it sounds like: a sidebar that can be expanded/collapsed next to any existing website, containing user-generated information and commenting similar to Wikipedia.

This feature comes with the Google Toolbar (a plug-in that you have to install in your web browser). Currently it is only available for the Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers and not Google's own product, Chrome.

What does this all mean? Users can now leave comments on any static website - including yours. The caveat is that all the participants (commenters and readers) would need to have the Google Toolbar installed, something which is far away from mainstream adoption.

Jeremiah Owyang, a strategist at Altimeter Group, wrote an in-depth post about SideWiki and said:

"The impacts are far reaching, now every web page on the internet is social and can have consumer opinion – both positive and negative."

While I think businesses should absolutely pay attention to SideWiki content as part of their listening and online reputation management strategy, I'm doubtful that large numbers of users will embrace this right away. Remember that only 1% of Wikipedia's users actually author content there. Also, we're currently seeing (with our own clients) that social media users are engaging more and more with blog content posted via the Facebook Pages platform, instead of the actual blog itself. Translation: Don't be surprised when Facebook unleashes something similar.

Siva Vaidhyanathan posted this on Twitter on September 24th:

"Can anyone explain to me how Google Sidewiki could be anything but a trough for trolls?"

To address this issue, supposedly Google SideWiki will have an algorithm that can rank the "value" of individual comments, bubbling the most valuable ones up to the top and burying "internet trolls" (vulgar, hateful people who live to cause trouble online). It remains to be seen how well this algorithm works.

So what are your thoughts? Is Google SideWiki going to be a major player, revolutionizing how we think about static web pages, or is this just another Google "beta" project that will fade into obscurity over a few months?


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Hey Nathan

I spent a little time over the past week both posting and reading Sidewiki comments and I like the tool but, like you, I wonder about its adoption rate and eventual purpose. There were some earnest folks out there with a traditional Wiki ethos trying to add value to the conversation. There were also fools playing with a toy trying very hard to offend someone. The experience became a little bit Meta and surreal when I was reading Sidewiki comments about a blog post's comments section.

One interesting thing the Sidewiki tool does is to aggregate all of the comments made by a user on a tab in their Google Profile (here's mine: http://www.google.com/profiles/mxstone1#sidewiki) This will help cut down on the garbage posts a bit since the person's permanent Internet record is being tied to the comment.

Take Care

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